Not all covert narcissists are inverted narcissists. But all inverted narcissists are covert (“shy”, “fragile”) narcissists. They are self-centred, sensitive, vulnerable, and defensive, or hostile, and paranoid. They harbour grandiose fantasies and have a strong sense of entitlement. They tend to exploit other, albeit stealthily and subtly. Covert narcissists are aware of their innate limitations and shortcomings and, therefore, constantly fret and stress over their inability to fulfil their unrealistic dreams and expectations. They avoid recognition, competition, and the limelight for fear of being exposed as frauds or failures. They are ostentatiously modest.
Covert narcissists often feel guilty over and ashamed of their socially-impermissible aggressive urges and desires. Consequently, they are shy and unassertive and intensely self-critical (perfectionist). This inner conflict between an overwhelming sense of worthlessness and a grandiose False Self results in mood and anxiety disorders. They team up with classic narcissists (see below), but, in secret, resent and envy them.
Contrary to misinformation spread by "experts" online, covert narcissists are not cunning and manipulative. Classic narcissists are: they often disguise their true nature effectively, knowingly, and intentionally. They are persistent actors with great thespian skills. Not so the covert narcissist: he suppresses his true nature because he lacks the confidence to assert it. His is not a premeditated choice: can't help but shy away. The covert narcissist is his own worst critic. . Lidija Rangelovska suggests that covert narcissism may develop late in life (during adolescence or even early adulthood) as a reaction to abuse by peers or to social rejection.
Inverted narcissism may be the outcome of arrested narcissistic development: the formation of the False Self is disrupted and incomplete and the inverted narcissist is forced to resort to and depend upon the False Self of another narcissist (her partner) in order to regulate her sense of self-worth.
Compare the classic narcissist to the covert narcissist is this table (Cooper and Akhtar, 1989):
( Continued here: http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com/faq66.html )